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Hispanic Heritage Month: Honoring Cesar Chavez and Delores Huerta

Dolores Huerta, standing with OUR Walmart members and workers during the Ride for Respect in summer 2013.

Dolores Huerta, standing with OUR Walmart members and workers during the Ride for Respect in summer 2013.

Hispanic Heritage Month provides us with an opportunity to pay tribute Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, two great labor leaders who co-founded the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) and helped to organize the Delano Grape Strike—one of the most successful strikes in labor history.

On September 8, 1965, Filipino farm workers in Delano, Calif., who were members of the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC), walked off the job at table grape farms in the area to protest the low pay and poor working conditions.  The leaders of AWOC knew that a successful strike had to include the many Latino farm workers in Delano, and they reached out to Chavez, Huerta and the NFWA to join them in their fight for dignity and respect on the job. Chavez insisted that the Filipino and Latino strikers work together and take a vow to remain nonviolent, and expanded the goals of the strikers to include the right to unionize and engage in collective bargaining.  Realizing their common goals, the NFWA and AWOC merged to form the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee in 1966.

In 1966, Chavez led a strike of California grape workers on a 300 mile march from Delano to Sacramento to raise awareness for their cause.  Soon, the strike spread to thousands of workers and the movement gained national attention and support from around the country, including the support of Robert F. Kennedy.  In 1967, Chavez shifted his focus and urged consumers and supermarket chains to boycott table grapes.  In response to the plight of the farm workers, Americans throughout the country refrained from buying table grapes in a show of support.  After five years of nonviolent strikes, boycotts, marches and fasts, the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee succeeded in reaching a collective bargaining agreement with table grape growers in California in 1970—resulting in better pay, benefits and workplace conditions for thousands of farm workers.

In 1972, the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee was accepted into the AFL-CIO and changed its name to the United Farmworkers Union. A year later in 1973, Chavez and Huerta led another successful consumer boycott against California grape growers that resulted in the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975, which allowed farm workers to form unions and bargain for better wages and working conditions.

Hispanic Heritage Month Spotlight: UFCW Steward Idalid Guerrero

It’s now the third week of Hispanic Heritage Month, and we’re celebrating by showcasing the story of a UFCW steward named Idalid Guerrero. Read her story about making a difference in one’s union and community, below:

Idalid GuerreroUFCW stewards play a special role in their plants. They are leaders who protect their co-workers and ensure that our plants and workplaces are safe, everyone is treated with respect, and our jobs stay good jobs. Stewards are also not just leaders in our plants, though. Stewards also play important roles in our communities.

Many stewards take their leadership skills and apply them to fight for people and causes that extend outside the plants. As part of the UFCW union, stewards know workers have strength in numbers and a voice on the job. Because stewards and union workers are united and have a strong voice, they can take our numbers and voices beyond the plants to help fight for those who do not have one.

As a UFCW steward, you are part of a proud tradition of fighting for issues important to workers and working families. From fighting to raise the minimum wage, to combating right-to-work legislation, to pushing for comprehensive immigration reform, stewards use their union voices to fight for all working people.

“As stewards, we know that we are there to be leaders and to help solve problems for our co-workers in our plants. But there are also problems for those who work outside of our plants. They need help too,” said Idalid Guerrero, steward at the Pilgrim’s Pride poultry plant in Lufkin Texas, and UFCW Local 540 member. “Getting involved in campaigns and actions outside of the plant gives us a chance to help other workers who might be afraid to speak up for change or might not have a voice on the job. With the support of our union, we can be their voice and bring attention to important issues for all workers.”

Last year, Guerrero joined other UFCW Pilgrim’s Pride workers from across the country in a national lobby day in Washington, D.C. Guerrero and her co-workers met with U.S. representatives and senators and asked them to raise the standards for workers in the poultry industry. “It was a great opportunity to meet other Pilgrim’s Pride workers and share our stories about the nature of our jobs, and how the industry impacts our families, and communities. It was an opportunity for us to come together as union workers and let our political leaders know we have a voice. We are fighting not just for Pilgrim’s Pride workers, but for poultry workers all across America,” Guerrero continued.

Guerrero also participated in a protest held outside of the U.S. Capitol in response to House Republican leaders failing to pass comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship. She and other UFCW stewards and activists joined thousands of people from across the country to march in Washington, D.C. She was just one of the many arrested in an action of civil disobedience to draw attention to the need for comprehensive immigration reform. “I went to Washington as both a worker and a mother. We deserve reform that is humane and just and keeps families together. I was arrested in solidarity with all immigrants who are calling on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.”

UFCW stewards are leaders who stand together to protect workers in their plants and also across the country. To become involved in issues important to workers contact your local union representative or your legislative & political representative (LPR).

“Getting involved in campaigns and actions outside of the plant gives us a chance to help other workers who might be afraid to speak up for change or might not have a voice on the job. With the support of our union, we can be their voice and bring attention to important issues for all workers.”–Idalid Guerrero, UFCW Local 540 member and Pilgrim’s Pride plant steward, Lufkin Texas

Hispanic Heritage Month Spotlight: Walter Garron

Walter with UFCW International President Joe Hansen

Walter with UFCW International President Joe Hansen

As we continue to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15–October 15) we wanted to share the story of UFCW Local 1473 Member and Staff Walter Garron.

Walter became a member of Local 1473 when he started working in the maintenance department at Strauss Brands in Franklin, Wisconsin. When his employer started giving his fellow coworkers a hard time about their employment eligibility, Walter came to their defense. After his union rep saw Walter “raising hell” for his fellow workers, he told him he’d make a great union steward. Walter jumped right in and has been actively involved in his union ever since. He has since worked in the Special Project Union Representative Program, and is now an organizer and union rep.

Naturally, Walter says that he is “an advocate for all workers” and that with the work he gets to do, he is truly “living the dream.” He currently serves as an Executive Board Member for the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), where he provides services and training for Latino union members. He has also helped organize Black Friday events with OUR Walmart throughout the state of Wisconsin.

Walter is also a member of the United Latinos. Touching on the importance of Hispanic Heritage Month, Walter says that the labor movement goes “hand in hand” with the Latino community:

“Latinos will be the largest minority by the year 2030, and we need to connect the movement to our communities. Latinos need to know their rights, and the labor movement needs to adopt them.”

To help Hispanics in the labor movement, Walter has been deeply involved with Immigration rights–pioneering Wisconsin informational workshops in deferred action and other immigration issues. Right now he is also working with allies to collect petitions calling for all people to have the right to obtain driver’s licenses.

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